por·​trait | \ ˈpȯr-trət How to pronounce portrait (audio) , -ˌtrāt \

Definition of portrait

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : picture especially : a pictorial representation of a person usually showing the face
2 : a sculptured figure : bust
3 : a graphic portrayal in words



Definition of portrait (Entry 2 of 2)

: of, relating to, or being a rectangular document having the vertical dimension longer than the horizontal dimension switching from landscape to portrait mode — compare landscape sense 3

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Examples of portrait in a Sentence

Noun The queen posed for her portrait. The book presents a portrait of life in a small town.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The ex-pat novel finds fresh currency in this slow-burning, starkly intimate portrait of a nameless American teacher marking off the days in modern-day Bulgaria. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, "The best books of 2020… so far," 30 June 2020 This version of the $20 bill includes a portrait of President Andrew Jackson on one side and vignette of the White House on the back. Devon Link, USA TODAY, "Fact check: $20 bill does not show a lynching outside of the White House; it's a lantern," 29 June 2020 Throughout the spring school closure, school officials counted how often students checked in with teachers and completed assignments, giving them a portrait of which students were engaging with school despite not being able to come to campus. oregonlive, "In Medford, summer school expands after vulnerable students struggle with distance learning," 28 June 2020 Joseph's backstory is at least as compelling as his portrait. National Geographic, "Why does this legendary Black photographer's work continue to resonate today?," 26 June 2020 Your Life helps facilitate this by connecting real artists to its customers, making the process of creating a unique, handcrafted portrait easier than ever. CNN Underscored, "Turn your favorite family photo into a stunning, handmade portrait with Paint Your Life," 25 June 2020 And so a troubling portrait of a new Arctic is emerging. Matt Simon, Wired, "Why the Arctic Is Warming So Fast, and Why That’s So Alarming," 23 June 2020 Earlier this year, Shane Grammer felt compelled to paint a portrait of Kobe Bryant after the NBA legend died in a helicopter crash. Carly Mallenbaum, USA Today, "Art activism: Stories behind murals, street paintings and portraits created in protest," 22 June 2020 An enormous portrait showed one face with images of Floyd and Traore. Russ Bynum, Anchorage Daily News, "Protesters call attention to deaths of 2 more black men in U.S.," 14 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The small park behind Tahrir Square has been divided by tents, one of which has become a steadily expanding portrait gallery with photographs of those who have been killed by the security forces. Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, "In Iraq, Where Beauty Was Long Suppressed, Art Flowers Amid Protests," 3 Feb. 2020 Yet for all the darkness, there’s a welcome and important dose of levity too, from a hilarious video of a beauty products fair by María Luisa Bemberg to Regina Vater’s playful, costumed self-portrait photographs. New York Times, "The Art of Staying Cool: 10 Can’t-Miss Summer Shows in New York," 4 July 2018 Arneson sets the tone through a ceramic self-portrait head from 1973, wall-mounted near the entry. Leah Ollman, latimes.com, "This Candy Store wasn't a candy store: Remembering a California gallery that made art stars," 3 July 2018 In portrait orientation, the left side of the bottom bar only has space for about three to four app icons. Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica, "Acer Chromebook Tab 10 review: Chrome OS revives Google’s tablet future," 23 June 2018 And even though the demand for photographers in traditional media has declined, there’s still a high-demand for commercial and portrait photographers. Jenny Knizner, USA TODAY, "20 In-Demand Freelance Skills That’ll Get You Hired Today," 4 June 2018 Dorothea Tanning’s self-portrait Birthday (1942) shows her bare-breasted, standing with a small winged monster with her back to a house full of open doors. Thomas Hine, Philly.com, "Art Museum show gives American Modernists - and Philly ones - new respect," 12 Apr. 2018 The heads presage a self-portrait print from 1990, displayed nearby, as well as the soft fabric figurative sculptures that Bourgeois took up in the late ’90s. Roberta Smith, New York Times, "Louise Bourgeois: Imagination Unfolds in All Dimensions," 27 Sep. 2017 Portrait sessions for families whose memories were stolen by the wind. Southern Living, "What Stands in a Storm, Part III: Fellowship," 1 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'portrait.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of portrait


1570, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1975, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for portrait


Middle French, from past participle of portraire

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Time Traveler for portrait

Time Traveler

The first known use of portrait was in 1570

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Statistics for portrait

Last Updated

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Portrait.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portrait. Accessed 7 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for portrait


How to pronounce portrait (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of portrait

: a painting, drawing, or photograph of a person that usually only includes the person's head and shoulders
: a detailed description of something or someone
: a way of printing a page so that the shorter sides are on the top and bottom and the longer sides are on the left and right


por·​trait | \ ˈpȯr-trət How to pronounce portrait (audio) , -ˌtrāt \

Kids Definition of portrait

: a picture of a person usually showing the face

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